Expensive British import Gold Land began to make an indent in his purchase price at Happy Valley on Wednesday night but trainer Tony Cruz was quick to pour cold water on any prospects of the four-year-old transforming his Hong Kong career.
In the colours of billionaire owner Pan Sutong, Sam Clipperton gave Gold Land a lovely ride to land his first win for Cruz at his fourth ride for the yard and completed the “set” of having won for all of the regular big four stables.
“When I was a jockey, I remember I always had some luck early riding for a trainer I had not ridden for much and Sam is having the same luck for me,” Cruz smiled after Gold Land’s first local win – in fact his first prizemoney earnings – at his ninth run here.
A winner of the Surrey Stakes at Epsom as a three-year-old, Gold Land was doubtless bought with better races than a midweek Class Three in mind but his form last term didn’t warrant inclusion in the four-year-old classics and Cruz wasn’t bubbling with enthusiasm even after the surprise victory at odds of 20-1.
“He has been healthy enough but a slow starter and to be honest it doesn’t seem like he’s very good,” he said. “He seems like a Class Two horse at the maximum but Sam gave him a good ride, he had a low draw and that was the story.”
The Cruz family tore off a nice piece of the meeting for itself, with Tony’s brother Derek landing a winning double in combination with the apprentices, as Dylan Mo Hin-tung brought home Happy Fiery Dragon and Jack Wong Ho-nam earned a helping of the trainer’s praise for his win on Good Companion to go with an earlier rebuke from the stewards.
In the fifth race, Wong had found the front on Curling Luxury and slowed the field up suddenly, causing a domino effect of horses checking behind him back through the field, but his ride on Good Companion was a much smoother, smarter ride on a leader.
“I think his ride in the first part of the race won it for him,” said Cruz. “He was patient getting around the horses inside him on the first turn – he didn’t want to be three wide but by just waiting a little bit until they slowed up, he got around to the lead and had more control than if he just charged.
“It was a smart ride on a very genuine horse. Good Companion was backing up from last week, when I didn’t think he was quite there and the run really brought him on, and he was hard to get past with the claim as well.”
Dennis Yip Chor-hong also claimed a winning double with Ho Ho Feel (Derek Leung Ka-chun) and Gentry (Eddy Lai Wai-ming) while Nash Rawiller took the riding honours before stewards stepped in with a suspension after the meeting.
Rawiller got the best out of Sparkling Talent for Danny Shum Chap-shing in the first and Love Chunghwa for Benno Yung Tin-pang two races later and the pair was enough to get him the Jockey Challenge.
Shum was short and sharp on Sparkling Talent: “He’s a one trick horse, he needs 1,000m, and he’s a one class horse, Class Five.”
Rawiller’s ban came out of his win on Love Chunghwa and he will be sidelined for the November 1 and 5 meetings and HK$15,000 lighter of pocket, while Neil Callan also found himself on the wrong end of the law after riding King Of Mongolia in race four and will miss October 29 and November 1.